Simplifying the Bedtime Routine for Single Parents in 6 Steps
Sleeping well is so important for kids! It’s not uncommon to find research suggesting that children who routinely get a good night’s sleep have better attention spans, memory, behavior, and overall mental health, among other benefits. Parents have first-hand insight on the impact that sleep can have on kids, as well as how challenging actually getting them to go to sleep can be.
For co-parents or single parents, the task of getting kids into bed is often a solo operation. It’s not always easy getting kids to calm down, especially if they’re dealing with stress or other challenging emotions. Here, Caroline Kelley, single mom and founder of Cute with Kids, shares her technique for a successful bedtime routine with her young children.
I used to put the dishes off until later. But I hated coming downstairs after bedtime and finding a dirty pile of dishes! So I started washing dishes right after we’re done eating. My kids are still playing and it’s not quite bedtime, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Sometimes they want to be with me in the kitchen, and I’ll have them help wash and dry. Cleaning up the kitchen before bedtime is a game-changer—and an example of how small changes can have significant benefits!
After dishes, around 6:45 PM, I start bath time. My kids are young, so I still bathe them together. While a bath every night isn’t always possible, it does help instill a good routine with calming benefits. (And a calm bedtime is always helpful!) Bath time is about 10-20 minutes, depending on how tired or wired my kids are.
While my kids are in the tub, I grab their jammies and lay them on the floor, just outside the bathroom. This minimizes any chance for them to run around and go crazy, and it saves my sanity. They get out of the tub, dry off, and immediately get into their jammies. Minimizing time and space between transitions is HUGE. It eliminates the need for kids to run back and forth between rooms, looking for pajamas.
Once the first child is in pajamas, they start brushing their teeth. Then, I bring the next one in and help finish. Once child #1 is done, they go choose a book. It’s almost like checking off a box for each task: the kids know exactly what comes next. Their end prize is choosing a book and getting storytime.
My kids choose one book each. I used to be flexible and read extra stories, but then I got smarter. If there is a limit of one book per child, there is no need for discussion. No need for negotiating! Our bedtime stories take about ten minutes.
Once they choose their book, they climb up on my bed and wait for me. We used to read on their bed or change it up, but my bed is a perfect size and neutral territory. Plus, it’s routine: after choosing a book they know exactly where to go. I’ll remind them (because 6 and 4 years olds can get distracted by anything!), but it’s just a simple, “Hey, get your book and go sit on my bed.”
Once we finish reading, it’s around 7:15 or 7:30 PM. They both have the same bedtime no matter what. They can read books in their bed if they aren’t tired, but they do need to stay in their bedroom.
I’ve learned to minimize the time in between each transition. That’s because everything goes in order and the kids know what comes next. A good bedtime routine has made my life as a single mom so much easier! It’s less exhausting and less stressful. And the best part? It’s not a huge deal if we occasionally have friends over for dinner and go to bed late. It doesn’t mess things up. We just shorten the routine by skipping the bath and moving right to pajamas, teeth, and stories. And if there is a babysitter? The routine easily stays the same because the kids do it automatically! Traveling? Same routine!
Bedtimes can be modified to whatever works for you and your family. But earlier bedtimes = well-rested kids = fewer meltdowns and behavioral issues!
Caroline Kelley is the creator of Cute With Kids, an online platform for women who are finding balance after divorce. With degrees in Education and English Literature, plus experience as a stay-at-home mom, Caroline tackles divorce with humor, strength and refreshing authenticity. A San Diego native, she loves spending time at the beach and staying active with her two young children.